NewEnergyNews: 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007


Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

Every day is Earth Day.


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  • Weekend Video: Happy Birthday Solar Cell
  • Weekend Video: Offshore Wind As A Hurricane A Wall
  • Weekend Video: Get On The Climate Policy Train

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 5 (continued from yesterday)


  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 1
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 2
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 3
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 4

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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge


    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here ( Thanks.


    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns


    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart



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  • Monday, April 30, 2007


    Welcome to the future, the good version. Many thanks to reader Darrel Clarke for pointing this story out.

    A two-way street with these hybrids
    April 28, 2007 (LA Times)
    click to enlarge
    Pacific Gas & Electric Company, one of the dominant California utilities

    PG & E demonstrated vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology using a Toyota Prius. This breakthrough concept allows vehicles plugged into electrical outlets to be used as storage for intermittent energy sources such as solar and wind.

    The demonstration took place in April.

    The demonstration took place in San Francisco (though commuters might need a little more juice this month for the long lines wending around the Bay Bridge interchange destruction).

    - Developments in battery technology, especially lithium-ion battery technology, facilitate the development of V2G and render questions about Chevron’s possibly conspiratorial motives for holding nickel-metal hydride battery technology off the market moot.
    - A V2G capacity allows plug-in hybrids to do much more for consumers than merely reduce fuel consumption, a good enough benefit on its own to justify the technological adaptation. In addition, plu-in hybrids with V2G capacity could be charged at night, when electrical rates are cheapest, benefiting owners with greater savings. Perhaps most importantly, though, the V2G technology becomes a “vehicle” for storing massive amounts of energy – in gazillions of individual car batteries – from clean sources such as wind and solar, without incurring the cost of creating a storage infrastructure. This is the insight behind the push by Plug-In Partners, an alliance of cities and organizations pushing for more plug-in hybrids as a means of access to clean electricity.
    - The extra storage capacity also protects against unexpected grid failures.
    click to enlarge
    PG&E environmental spokesman Keely Wachs: “If such technology ever made it to mass production, plug-in hybrid owners could recharge their batteries at night, when most electric rates are lower…Then on hot days, when demand for power soars, owners not using their cars could plug them in and transfer electricity from the batteries to the commercial grid. Utility companies would pay hybrid owners for that power, and at the higher daytime rate…Plug-in hybrids also could provide their owners with emergency power to run refrigerators, lights or air conditioners during power outages…”


    A superb example of the problems with cap-and-trade:

    Dubai could gain from EU aviation carbon-trading plan: US official
    April 26, 2007 (AFP via Yahoo News)

    Marion Blakey, admininistrator of the Federal Aviation Administration
    Dubai International Airport (click to enlarge)
    An FAA spokesperson suggested a European carbon cap might mean Dubai’s capacity for handling airline traffic would make it an attractive hub, assuming it remains outside the carbon cap scheme and flights there would therefore be cheaper.

    - Dubai airport handled 29 million passengers in 2006 and will handle 33 million in 2007. It will expand capacity to 70 million by 2008 and is building a new facility to handle 120 million.
    - Institution of the EU plan is on-going.

    Dubai is one of the United Arab Emirates along the western coast of the Persian Gulf.
    click to enlarge
    This is how international efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions can be undercut by non-participants. The economic advantages of non-participation are apparent. Airline emissions are among the highest and would, therefore be regulated by the EU plan, driving the cost of flying up. Dubai, the busiest airport in the Middle East, would be happy to compromise the EU program by taking business away from EU airports, especially since it figures to have cheaper jet fuel in ample supply as well.

    Blakey: "Dubai might benefit from the (carbon-trading) policy ... Air traffic could be diverted to it…"


    Size matters: The energy market just keeps getting bigger and when the cost of carbon starts getting figured in, renewables are going to look like the best bargain around.

    Merger Creates Renewables Giant
    April 25, 2007 (UPI)

    Spanish utility Iberdrola/ CEO Ignacio Galan, ScottishPower
    wind in Spain
    The merger of two large utilities heavily invested in New Energy creates a single entity likely to have a major impact on renewables in Europe.

    The deal begun in November, 2006, was announced complete April 23.

    Spain, Scotland
    wind in Scotland
    Iberola is a major European force in wind energy. ScottishPower is a major holder in hydroelectric. Together, they control 40,000 installed megawatts, 16,500 installed megawatts of renewables. Galan will become CEO of ScottishPower. The merger is not expected to affect customers.

    Galan on the merger: "…the birth of one of the largest electricity companies in the world, a leader in renewables with an enterprise value of more than $88 billion."


    Size matters: Everybody's trying to be the biggest. No problem; you can't have too much solar energy.

    Solar Array Under Construction at Nellis
    April 25, 2007 (Las Vegas Review-Journal via Red Orbit)

    U.S. Air Force, Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, Solar Star, SunPower Corp.,
    click to enlarge
    A public/private venture to convert a landfill into the largest solar photovoltaic station in North America, a 140 acre, 70,000-panel Solar Star system.

    Groundbreaking was April 24. Completion is expected in early 2008.

    The western edge of Nellis Air Force Base, at the southern tip of Nevada.
    SunPower Corp, San Jose, CA., will supply solar panels produced in the Phillipines and assembled in China.

    At a cost of $100 million, the system will generate 15 megawatts of electricity, sufficient to supply 30% of Nellis’ power, saving $1 million/year. The installation will be replicated by the state if it is perceived as successful.
    The sun in the Nevada desert
    - Gibbons: "I think this is the beginning of a new frontier, the beginning of utilization of our natural resources which are abundant, unlimited and are homegrown here in Nevada…to help reduce our dependency on foreign fuel, on carbon-based fuels…[and] have a cleaner environment…"
    - Gibbons responding to the windy conditions at Nellis: "…we'll get a little of this wind energy tied into that as well down the road. But right now, this is a great start…in our ability to supply energy for the state of Nevada."


    The potential to recover the energy in the human stride and translate it into more efficient transport has long intrigued geniuses, like Engineer-of-the-Century and NEWENERGYNEWS' friend Paul MacCready.

    Making energy from the sole
    April 21, 2007 (AP via KATC3-TV)

    Assistant professor of electrical engineering Ville Kaajakari; Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

    DARPA awarded Kaajakari $50,000 to develop a shoe that recycles the energy from the stride of the wearer into a battery cell.

    The grant is for 6 months’ research.

    Kaajakari teaches and does research at Louisiana Tech University.

    - A stride forces significant energy down as the foot falls. Kaajakari’s design uses piezoelectric polymers in the heel of the shoe which absorb the energy when pressure is applied and release voltage. A previous similar experiment failed because it did not use piezoelectric polymers.
    - Theoretically, three days of walking is enough to recharge a cell phone battery that holds its charge for three days.
    - Problems remain. Wiring from the shoe to the battery cell is one. Kaajakari is using Nikes for experimentation because the company already has a model with a sensor for the iPod in it.
    piezoelectric polymers
    - Kaajakari: "In this, the voltage is generated when a user steps on the heel…The polymer aspect is a key here: Our technology is simpler, cheaper, and gives 10 times more power…"
    - Kaajakari:"The military is very interested in low-power performance…Their interest is in having everything use as little power as possible."

    Sunday, April 29, 2007


    A guide to good carbon offsets
    Fiona Harvey, April 26, 2007 (Financial Times)

    The Financial Times of London, one of the world’s most respected business-oriented daily newspapers and periodicals.

    The Times publishes an assessment of what is good and what is not about offsetting.

    Presently, there is public pressure on businesses to work against climate change but inadequate clarity on what the best moves are to do so. EU Phase1 ends this year; Phase 2 is 2008 – 2012.

    After businesses cut back all they can on emitting greenhouse gases, they can look into investments to offset what they must emit in the course of doing business.

    The Financial Times proposes:
    1. “Analyse your company’s carbon footprint”
    2. “Reduce emissions first”
    3. Choose between purchasing offsets from a “regulated” or a “voluntary” market. The EU market is regulated. The Times says “Phase 2” credits are better investments. Also regulated are Certified Emissions Reductions purchasable via the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocols. They are more expensive but meet more rigorous standards. Voluntary markets allow for more varied offset programs and less adminstrative costs but less uniformity and administration in programs breeds potential abuse.
    4. Offsets can be chosen by the business or by an agent.
    click to enlarge
    5. Criteria:
    a) “Additionality”: Is this investment funding something that would be done anyway?
    b) “Type and location of projects”: What secondary or unintended consequences will be created?
    c) “Vintage”: When is the payoff?
    d) “Verification”: Is the offset a UN Designated Operational Entity (DOE) of verified by one of the market leaders (SGS Group, TUV or Det Norske Veritas)? Kyoto Protocol-like standards are emerging from by International Emissions Trading Association, the Climate Group, the World Economic Forum, and various environmental charities.
    6. “Registry”: The Bank of New York
    7. “Forestry”: Planting trees is an especially controversial type of offset.
    8. “Cost”: A wide range, especially in voluntary markets, from less than a dollar to $20 and up/ton of carbon

    References from the Financial Times:
    Financial Times Interactive Guide

    F & C Investments Guide to Carbon Offsetting

    Business For Social Responsibility Guide


    Carbon-Neutral Is Hip, But Is It Green?
    Andrew C. Revkin, April 29, 2007 (NY Times)

    Only inhabitants of Earth, nobody else. Those who are trying to do something about global warming by using carbon offsets and those who aren’t.
    click to enlarge
    Carbon neutrality is theoretically achieved when carbon offsets are purchased (or earned) to balance any and all emissions created. Questions have been raised about the validity of the concept.

    The concepts of “neutrality” and “offsetting” have grown up with the idea of climate change as caused by greenhouse gas emissions. The more “offsetting” is used, the more questions emerge about whether it creates true “neutrality.”

    In every individual life.
    click to enlarge
    As awareness of climate change grows, people want to act. Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” climaxes with actions consumers can do to offset their emissions. The website, and many others, offers a “carbon footprint” calculator. Many celebrities and high-profile businesses are on the bandwagon. And skeptics are asking questions. Offsetting is probably an imperfect alternative to doing nothing, a financial strategy easily abused. Prices are severely skewed, fluctuating in poorly managed EU markets and unstructured US markets. Regulation and oversight could improve it.

    - Denis Hayes, the president of the Bullitt Foundation, an environmental grant-making group: “The worst of the carbon-offset programs resemble the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences back before the Reformation…people take private jets and stretch limos, and then think they can buy an indulgence to forgive their sins…This whole game is badly in need of a modern Martin Luther…”
    - Daniel A. Lashof, the science director of the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council: “We can’t stop global warming with voluntary offsets, but they offer an option for individuals looking for a way to contribute…in addition to reducing their own emissions and urging their elected representatives to support good policy…”
    - Michael R. Solomon, the author of “Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having and Being” and a professor at Auburn University: “Consumers are always going to gravitate toward a more parsimonious solution that requires less behavioral change…We know that new products or ideas are more likely to be adopted if they don’t require us to alter our routines very much.”
    - Charles Komanoff, a New York energy economist: “There isn’t a single American household above the poverty line that couldn’t cut their CO2 at least 25 percent in six months through a straightforward series of fairly simple and terrifically cost-effective measures…”

    Saturday, April 28, 2007


    1) lawmakers set an allowed cap on overall greenhouse gas emissions;
    2) the federal government regulates each emitter (coal suppliers and burners, oil importers and sellers, utilities and refineries, etc. )
    3) Emitters could buy credits to emit more from non-emitters

    This CBO report distinguishes between a cap-and-trade system which sells “allowed amounts of emissions” or assigns them without cost. Selling “allowed amounts of emissions” to businesses creates revenues to balance burdens on consumers, via reduced taxes or a balanced budget. Assigned and free “allowed amounts” likely gives more profit to energy producers without protecting consumers.

    click to enlarge

    US CBO Sees Carbon Cap Driving Up Costs For Poorer Households
    Maya Jackson Randall, April 26, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswire)

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO); consumers, especially lower-income consumers; Federal policy-makers involved in developing legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions

    The CBO finds that lower-income consumers would take a bigger cost hit from carbon capping.

    There are more pending legislative proposals on how to cap emissions than 2008 candidates for president right now. That’s a LOT of proposals.
    click to enlarge
    Capitol Hill is where the legislative action is, but the discussion on how to limit emissions without causing economic burden and inhibit growth is national, no, make that international.

    - Emissions capping adds cost to the burning of fossil fuels to create energy. Even the brightest scenarios have much fossil fuel still being used to create electricity and power vehicles for the foreseeable future. This means higher energy prices. Energy prices are not easily avoided by those with lower incomes. They usually consume less energy for optional activities (water skiing) and more for necessary ones (commuting to work).
    - Higher energy costs likely mean some reduction in optional consumption and, thus, some reduced economic activity in energy fields and job losses in that sector.
    - The most likely emissions limiting legislation right now looks to be a cap-and-trade system. Costs would be directed at business but would inevitably be passed on to consumers.

    “All consumers would face higher prices for electricity and gasoline, but those hikes would take up a greater portion of poorer households' income…”


    Proposed Agency Deterred By Energy Department
    April 26, 2007 (UPI)

    Senate Finance Committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, John Marburger, science adviser to the president and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
    click to enlarge
    Advanced Research Projects Authority-Energy (ARPA-E ) is a proposed government research agency intended to guide the nation away from dependence on imported energy.

    ARPA-E is a proposal in the Energy Research Act of 2007.

    ARPA-E is part of a Senate subcommittee proposal. It would become a Washington, D.C., agency.

    The stated purpose of ARPA-E is to develop and fund domestic and renewable energy production and cut US imports by 20% over 10 years. DOE contends a new agency would interfere with on-going R & D projects.
    click to enlarge
    Bodman and Marburger: "A new bureaucracy at DOE would drain resources from priority basic research efforts…"We ask you to oppose legislation that establishes ARPA-E as an independent Federal activity outside the Energy Department. The Administration is supportive of the mechanisms of ARPA-E, provided they are maintained within Department of Energy…"


    A quiet, smart plan financed by a public/private partnership and running ahead of schedule. No wonder there's so little reporting on Taiwan -- nothing but good news.

    Taiwan Uses Wind To Cut Emissions
    April 23, 2007 (UPI)

    Bureau of Energy officials under the Ministry of Economic Affairs; Taiwan Power Co., Tien-Lung Paper Co. and InfraVest Wind Power Group;

    13 wind farms, 100 wind turbines, on Taiwan’s coast, saving 250,000 tons of CO2 annually and plans for more.

    The 100 were installed beginning in 2000. 200 more will be built by 2010. 546 more by 2020. Taiwan’s goal is to draw 10% of energy from renewable sources by 2010, 805 of that coming from wind.

    The present and future installations will be along the island nation’s west coast, where winds are strongest.
    click to enlarge
    Taiwan has two familiar concerns: to cut dependence on imported energy and to limit emissions. Taiwan Power Co., Tien-Lung Paper Co. and InfraVest Wind Power Group began the installations, which produce 420million kilowatt hours annually, a supply for 105,000 households. The planned installations will generate 500 megawatts. Emissions will also be discouraged with a (tax-like?) “pay-per-use” concept now being drafted by Taiwanese legislators.

    “Wind power generated in Taiwan is helping it cut its carbon dioxide emissions…Strong winds along the coast allow high productivity…”


    You have to be very cynical to conceive of such a dark business move. Its like a drug dealer selling heroin and offering leases on rooms in a rehab facility as part of the same deal. And owning the rehab facility.

    Russian Energy Giant to Bundle Carbon Credits with Gas Sales
    Andrew E. Kramer, April 25, 2007 (NY Times)

    Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom, its London subsidiary, Gazprom Marketing & Trading, Gazprombank, and trading unit Carbon Trade & Finance.
    click to enlarge
    Gazprom will, in an innovative program, bundle natural gas sales with sales of emission credits which are necessary, in many European markets to offset emissions generated by burning the natural gas.

    Gazprom made its first bundled sale in November, 2006. Test marketing is under way. The credits are required under the EU cap-and-trade market-based system instituted in 2005 to limit emissions.

    Russian is acting globally. Deals mentioned in the article include Brazil, Britain, the U.S. and Europe.

    - The innovative bundled energy+credits package is possible because Russia has both the abundance of energy resources to sell and yet has the capacity to obtain credits, as when Gazprom Marketing & Trading last week acquired partial ownership of Propower do Brasil, a carbon-neutral Brazilian biomass power plant with an abundance of credits earned through the use of renewable fuels. In this way, Gazprom can boost its position in the EU emissions market while simultaneously expanding its energy market share.
    click to enlarge
    - Gazprom also plans to acquire antiquated Russian utilities, like Unified Energy Systems, and make them more efficient, thereby earning credits while creating entities capable of selling energy. Experts have estimated Russia’s potential in this type of investment to be $6 billion to $9 billion but at current prices the total value of potential Russian carbon credits is now estimated at 30-45 billion euros ($40-$60 billion). Pending developments in EU and world cap-and-trade systems.

    - Klaus Reinisch, director of new business development at Gazprom Marketing & Trading: “This shouldn’t be seen as a one-off deal…If you want to be global trading operation, you need a global portfolio.”
    - Philip A. Dewhurst, Gazprom Marketing & Trading spokesman: “Russia is the Saudi Arabia of carbon…There is a tremendous bank there. Gazprom is in this business for the long term.”


    His principled positions on facilitating private investment and resisting nuclear development make an interesting combination. But there are stronger positions on efficiency. (See Germany’s proposals below.) Politics is the art of the possible. Does that make saving the earth impossible?

    NY aims to lead nation in clean-energy policy
    Joan Gralla, April 19, 2007 (Reuters via Yahoo News)

    New York Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer,

    Governor Spitzer described an energy policy aimed not at taxes and subsidies but at conservation and efficiency.

    Spitzer proposes conservation measures for New York state aimed at reducing overall power consumption 15% by 2015.

    Spitzer’s proposed measures would be statewide.

    - Spitzer’s proposed $295 million in renewable energy projects are to come primarily from private investments in clean energy, wind, solar and hydropower.
    - He intends to incentivize investment in new power plants new legislation protective of the environment yet facilitative to rapid permitting and clearing of regulatory obstacles.
    - He proposes stringent new efficiency standards for large and small appliances to incentivize the development of the greenest building possible.
    - He opposes nuclear plant construction and intends to close the Indian Point nuclear plant north of New York City when alternative electricity generation is available.
    - He intends to stimulate private investment in utilities by offering long term contracts.
    click to enlarge
    Spitzer: "There was not a tax increase [in his new budget]-- nor will there be while I am governor…"
    Spitzer: "The public wants nothing more than someone with the fortitude to stand up and do the hard decisions that have to be made."
    Spitzer: "There is simply no tolerance in New York State for additional nuclear plants."

    Friday, April 27, 2007


    To Richard Branson: Credit where credit is due, for trying to make it right. May the winds of the jetstream and the winds of change fill your sails. The rest of us will be plugging in.

    Virgin seeks to reduce its carbon emissions; Airline orders lighter jets from Boeing, plans to test a form of biofuel next year
    David Armstrong, April 25, 2007 (San Francisco Chronicle)

    Virgin Atlantic Airways/ owner Richard Branson/ Virgin Atlantic CEO Steve Ridgeway
    Branson and Al Gore
    Virgin will take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One jetliner will test biofuels and the company will add “at least” 15 fuel efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

    - Towing tests in March, 2007.
    - Taking possession of 15 Dreamliners in 2011.

    Towing tests at San Francisco International Airport, London Heathrow, London Gatwick

    - Jet flight is one of the most concentrated sources of emissions.
    - The Boeing Dreamline is said to use 27% less fuel than comparable jets.
    - Virgin is also experimenting with having planes towed while on the runway to reduce engine use.
    - The Dreamliners are more fuel efficient because they are lighter, being made from light composite plastics and metals.
    - The biofuel, not yet been determined, will be developed with GE Aviation. Standard jet fuel, very like kerosene, burns with serious emissions,
    - Ridgeway: "If you have this tug or tractor, rather than a plane using two, three or even four engines, you can reduce noise dramatically on the ground, and reduce emissions at and near the airport… If it can be made to work, the whole industry can adopt it.''
    - Branson: "Virgin Atlantic is totally focused on delivering a cleaner airline in the air and on the ground…The 787 Dreamliner symbolizes the environmentally kinder aircraft of the future -- cleaner, quieter, lighter."


    Americans, who have been mud wrestling in the brutal world of oil since right after Colonel Drake’s Pennsylvania well in 1859, welcome China to the ugliness. Now how about we all start building wind turbines and concentrating solar fields like there’s no tomorrow? (Which, for 9 Chinese oil workers, is now the case.)

    China’s Expansion Puts Workers in Harm’s Way; Attack on Ethiopian Oil Fields Highlights Perils of Pursuing Resources Abroad
    Edward Cody, April 25, 2007 (Washington Post)
    click to enlarge
    Chinese oil workers with China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. (Sinopec), ethnic Somali rebels

    Nothing new in the oil world: A raid on a Sinopec drilling site in Ethiopia left 74 dead. 9 dead Chinese oil workers, 7 kidnapped. China faces a new level of risk in pursuit of energy resources, especially oil, necessary for its barreling economic expansion.

    The Somali rebel attack and deaths were April 24. Kidnappings, wounding and death in 2007.

    The attack was in eastern Ethiopia’s Ogaden Desert. 16 Chinese oil workers have been kidnapped in Nigeria, 1 oil worker dead and 1 wounded in Kenya.

    4 million Chinese work abroad, many in dangerous African nations. The Chinese people are increasingly adamant that the government keep them safe. Because the Sinopec Ethiopia facility was guarded by 100 Ethiopian soldiers, the question of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s neutrality toward dangerous or failing governments is being raised, forcing the government to curtail internet dialogue. The Foreign Ministry’s neutrality is designed to avoid seeming an intruder with colonial ambitions but locals are reacting with hostility nevertheless.

    - Stratfor, a security consulting firm: "China now faces the dilemma of any country that undertakes an active foreign policy, particularly one with a foreign policy in no small part based on the acquisition of resources…It must now decide how much to get involved in other countries' internal security issues."
    - From the internet: "If you want to make money there, why wouldn't you send your own troops to provide security?" one contributor wrote. "It seems we should learn from the early colonial powers."
    - Liu Lide, retired ambassador/Chinese envoy in Africa: "Chinese economic activities in African countries are on the basis of cooperation and friendship… We want to work not only with African governments but also with African people…These people [the rebels] had bad intentions…Their goal was to sabotage China's relations with the Ethiopian government."


    This is such a simple obvious solution there must be something wrong with it. Or is there something wrong with us because we’re not doing it?

    Govt banks on solar, wind energy to bridge power gap
    April 26, 2007 (Times News Network via The Economic Times of India)

    The government of India/ Secretary for ministry of new and renewable energy V. Subramanian

    The Indian government plans a system by which owners of wind, solar and other alternative energy generators can feed their power into the national grid at times of high demand and be awarded

    The system is now a proposal and will require practical development, but the Indians are going there.

    The idea is to direct energy generated by alternative sources to the Indian central grid where it can be channeled to locations of heightened demand.

    With India’s huge nation and massive population, there are times and places when people are “starved” for energy supply. The generators of the alternative sources of energy derive profit when their energy is sold at “starved’ locations or times for the increased market rate. This is very like Al Gore’s “smart grid” concept and is said to already be successful in Germany and Australia.

    Subramanian: “The proposed system for wind, solar and other non-conventional energy sources would soon be forwarded to the power regulatory authorities for endorsement.”


    So many political leaders talk about carbon capture and sequestration like it’s a sure solution to all our global warming anxieties but here is yet another news story PROVING the technology is UNPROVEN! Maybe a little more attention to wind turbines and concentrating solar stations wouldn't be such a bad idea.

    Well Ready For Testing Of Carbon Injection
    April 25, 2007 (UPI)

    The Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, FirstEnergy, Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory
    click to enlarge
    An 8000 ft well into Appalachian Basin deep saline formations, now complete, will be the site of CO2 geologic sequestration feasibility testing.

    Set to begin.

    FirstEnergy's R.E. Burger Plant, Shadyside, Ohio.

    Political leaders of all stripes are anxiously pushing to prove this technology. Before CO2 injection, the geologic formation will assessed. If approved, gas will be injected and affects carefully studied. Other field tests are on-going. The Michigan Basin geologic area and the Cincinnati Arch area, among 20 others, are being studied.
    click to enlarge
    Acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Tom Shope: "By assessing carbon storage in an area of the country that produces 20 percent of the nation's electricity, the test helps pave the way toward a future in which America's abundant fossil resources can be used to produce energy without contributing to global climate change…"


    What seems especially interesting about this standard-setting is that it would help the buyer know so much more about the building being sold, a really good thing.

    Germany proposes energy efficient labels for homes
    Tom Armitage, April 20, 2007 (Reuters)
    click to enlarge
    The current German government, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition cabinet, Transport, Building and Urban Affairs Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, Economy Minister Michael Glos

    Germany proposes a mandatory labeling of buildings, identifying their level of energy efficiency. European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs approved.

    Proposals would be enacted by the end of 2007 and toughened in 2008. The European Union’s stated goal is a 20% reduction of residential and transportation energy use by 2020.

    Germany first, then Europe.

    - Prospective buyers would know exactly what they are and are not getting in terms of energy costs. Energy certificates would detail things like the cost of heating and hot water. Energy efficiency means greenhouse gas emission reductions.
    - Opponents of Merkel’s government complain that measures are aimed at consumers, not business and industry.
    - A strong disagreement on nuclear energy remains in the coalition government and among EU nations.

    - Tiefensee: “In future, property ads might say not just 'balcony, two rooms, quiet area' but also mention its energy efficiency…"
    - Glos: "In the current coalition there is no parliamentary majority to change the decision we have taken (to pull out of nuclear power)…But in light of climate change, nuclear power should be considered again as an interim solution."

    Thursday, April 26, 2007


    What does it mean when investing's biggest name gets attached to a new technology? It means there is Big Money in the new technology. Is Bill next?

    PacificCorp to study capture of carbon dioxide in coal plants
    Jim Polson and Greg Chang, April 23, 2007 (Bloomberg News via Deseret News)
    Buffet in bright red, Gates in Harvard crimson
    PacifiCorp, a utility owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc; The Wyoming Infrastructure Authority/executive director Steve Waddington;

    The Wyoming Infrastructure Authority will, with competitive bid winner PacificCorp , conduct a joint feasibility study by building a coal-fired power plant designed to utilize Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC), a type of carbon capture/sequestration technology.

    The bids were assessed by January 30 of this year and the contract recently awarded.

    - The new power plant will be at one of two unnamed sites in Wyoming, possibly at the Jim Bridger station in the southwestern part of the state.
    - Another IGCC test facility, using different proprietary technology, is in development in New York state.
    click to enlarge pic
    - Both utility think tank Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have declared IGCC theoretically substantial as a means of eliminating CO2 emissions from electricity generation. The technology gasifies coal and burns it to generate electricity while at the same time both utilizing the heat produced for warming and removing and retaining the carbon dioxide for sequestration.
    - As is the case everywhere else, the new plant and technology are responses to increased demand for power and the need to provide it without aggravating climate change.

    Waddington commenting on costs: "…considerably higher than conventional wisdom…It's not a pretty picture, and we're hoping that we can push those costs down…"


    If there's bright lights and strong winds, it must be the British north country's favorite seaside funpark, Blackpool Lights. Now going New Energy.

    Promenade wind turbines installed
    April 24, 2007 (BBC News)

    Blackpool town council/ Julian Kearsley, executive director.
    Seaside, Blackpool
    Wind turbines are being placed on the promenade shore at the famed Blackpool Lights tourist attraction and seaside resort. The wind energy generated on the Liverpudlian coast will help power the resort’s renowned nighttime illumination.

    Two turbines are presently being installed and a third will be added next month.

    The turbines are on the shorefront, close to Sandcastle Water Park.
    Blackpool Lights
    - The cost of £147,000 will be defrayed by an annual energy savings of £13,250 over the anticipated 25 year life of the turbines. Blackpool has extraordinary energy expenses, £1m annually, due to the iconic attraction’s electrical consumption.
    - The first two turbines have three 9m (29ft.) blades and a 15m (49ft.) pole for a total height of 19.5m (64ft.). The third is 14m (46ft.) high with “S” shaped blades.

    Kearsley: "Geographically, Blackpool is in a tremendous position to harness the power of the wind and turn it to our advantage…This pilot will enable us to confirm wind speeds, turbine output and the number of turbines required."


    Just hints about THE DEBATE OF OUR TIME in this article, the question of whether a market-based cap-and-trade system or a broader-based carbon tax is the best way to limit greenhouse gas emissions and protect the earth. No doubt more information in the book. (Send it and it will be reviewed:

    Can ‘carbon tax’ help?
    Dan McLean, April 21, 2007 (Burlington Free Press)

    Vijay Vaitheeswaran, environment/energy correspondent,The Economist, and author of Power to the People: How the Coming Energy Revolution will Transform an Industry, Change our Lives, and Maybe Even Save the Planet; Vermont Council on World Affairs
    click to enlarge
    Vaitheeswaran’s talk advocated impostion of a carbon tax, the alternative to a market-based cap-and-trade system of emission restraint

    Vaitheeswaran’s talk was Friday, April 20.

    The Vermont Council on World Affairs is in Colchester, Vermont.

    Vaitheeswaran’s ideas:
    - The current energy system, based on oil and other fossil fuels, is unsustainable.
    - The energy market is opening up to innovation and competition is coming from renewables.
    - All government subsidies should be eliminated, leveling the field.
    - A carbon tax is the most straightforward way to create a cost for greenhouse gas emissions. Emitters pay, renewables like wind and solar, as well as nuclear, do not.

    Vaitheeswaran: "The world is at an energy crossroads…The current energy system is unsustainable…Despite the over-reliance on fossil fuels, there is reason to be optimistic…”


    On the face of it, this idea for turning waste to fuel is appealing. The first question is whether it can be done without consuming more energy than it produces (EROEI). The second question is whether burning it constitutes a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. No doubt there will discussion on these questions at The Oil Drum.

    04-27-2007 Update: Energy authority Robert Rapier has posted on the refutable science of this experimental technology at R-Squared Energy Blog. He calls it "certainly worth funding" but predicts, as guessed, it will not efficiently produce energy. Thanks to reader Darryl (see comments) for mentioning Rapier's post.

    Carbon Gas Is Explored as a Source of Ethanol
    Lawrence M. Fisher, April 24, 2007 (NY Times)
    The process. Click to enlarge.
    LanzaTech/ Sean Simpson, co-founder & chief scientific officer; Khosla Ventures/Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems;

    Khosla Ventures has invested $3.5 million in LanzaTech’s research and pilot project to produce ethanol from carbon monoxide gas via fermentation in a bacteria.

    The money has been invested, the deal is done.

    LanzaTech is based in Auckland, New Zealand. Khosla Ventures is based in California’s Silicon Valley.

    - Khosla Ventures has funded “more than a dozen” clean-tech start-ups since Khosla founded it in 2004.
    - Ethanol, produced at economically competitive rates is in high demand as a gasoline additive and some anticipate it will serve as an alternative fuel.
    - Corn sugar is fermented by yeast into ethanol; a bacterium ferments carbon monoxide gas, an industrial waste product, into ethanol in the same way. Obtaining industrial waste is likely to be more cost-efficient than purchasing corn in a competitive commodities market. LanzaTech’s Simpson claims the steel industry produces a half ton of CO/ton of manufactured steel.
    - Though Khosla is one of its biggest boosters, ethanol has problems and detractors. Even if this new method is EROEI positive, transport via existing pipelines is not possible due to corrosive elements in ethanol. Using it as a fuel does create independence from oil and decrease greenhouse gases but also decreases fuel efficiency and increases smog production.
    The bacterium
    - Khosla: “When I passed [the LanzaTech project] on to my partners for due diligence, the technology stood up to every test, and the intellectual property protection was awesome…“The performance of the bugs was frankly mind-boggling to me, not something I would have expected from a tiny research effort in New Zealand…the best process engineers we know [evaluated] the technology…and the answer was yes.”
    - Khosla: “There are many more weapons in the war on oil than the narrow-minded folks who do prognostication imagine…Most of the action in energy is coming from biotechnology, and the most interesting work in biotechnology is energy.”


    Full disclosure: This blog gets NO subsidy or reward of any kind from WilderHill, though it sure would be nice if it recieved a subsidy from SOMEBODY. Anybody interested in advertising? (

    Clean, Green Energy Gets Investors Interest
    JoAnne Von Alroth, April 17, 2007 (Investors Business Daily via Yahoo News)

    PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy Fund, environmental technology researcher Robert Wilder, founder.

    A small-cap growth exchange traded fund (43 stocks, total average market cap of $1.2 billion, the largest of its kind) doing extremely well in the market on the strength of booming interest in New Energy among socially conscious investors.

    PowerShares WilderHill closed at $20.08 on Wednesday, April 25, 2007.
    click to enlarge
    PowerShares WilderHill is traded on the American Stock Exchange.

    Some of WilderHill’s top holdings have recently increased in value as a result of new deals:
    - American Superconductor specializes in making electric power systems more efficient. Its Windtec subsidiary won a multimillion-dollar contract from Dongfang Steam Turbine Works, one of the largest Chinese steam turbine manufacturers.
    - SunPower (subsidiary of Cypress Semiconductor) announced it will form the first nationwide network of solar power system sellers/installers/service providers. Some numbers on SunPower: RS: 95, EPS: -22 cents, 2005; +51 cents, 2006; Earnings up 800% in Q4 2006, projected Q1 2007 earnings up 375%.

    “When it comes to energy, the power right now is behind the green.”

    Wednesday, April 25, 2007


    These are the questions which MUST be answered, these are the problems which MUST be solved. Or should we just do a carbon tax? This is THE DEBATE OF OUR TIME. What is decided may LITERALLY determine the fate of the earth.

    Devil is in details of carbon cap system; Despite broad consensus, fault lines run through ‘cap and trade’ debate
    John W. Schoen, April 24, 2007 (MSNBC)

    Affected: all US emitters of greenhouse gases. In the article: David Yarnold, executive vice president of Environmental Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, Chicago Climate Exchange, Michael Morris, CEO of American Electric Power, David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, U.S. Climate Action Partnership, the US congress

    The article describes a U.S. carbon emissions “cap-and-trade” system, the benefits, pitfalls and questions. The basic idea: “Companies that produce emissions below a mandatory cap earn carbon credits — which they can then sell to companies that don’t meet the cap. This rewards those who invest in ways of reducing pollution and penalizing those who don’t.”

    Already operating in Europe and voluntary in the US (CCX), the system has been proposed by many political and business leaders and a decision about such a system seems eminent.
    EPA presently administers a successful cap-and-trade system that controls acid rain by limiting sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions.
    USCAP targets a 60-80% emission reduction by 2050.

    Nationally is necessary, internationally would be better.

    Questions addressed by the article:
    How will carbon credits be allocated?
    How restrictive should carbon caps be?
    Will there be rewards for early adopters?
    What level of emissions will be grandfathered?
    Should companies be rewarded for investments made years ago?
    How are caps enforced?
    When will they be instituted?
    How do they affect competition with emerging giants India and China?
    How do (non-emitting and government subsidized) nuclear plants fit in?
    Should congress follow the USCAP lead?

    - David Yarnold/Environmental Defense: “One of the inevitable things about the democratic process is that everybody is going to look for their own version of fairness…”
    - Michael Morris, CEO, American Electric Power: “The timeline has to be right, and the reduction targets have to be achievable…It will serve no purpose for Congress to ask the utilities of the world to run a three-minute mile because it won’t happen.”
    - David Crane, CEO, NRG Energy: “If the nuclear and gas lobby gets their way and you tie it to megawatts of capacity. that is a windfall…A nuclear plant that was built under a rate-based mechanism with full recovery (of construction costs), and now suddenly gets a carbon benefit, that is a windfall for the nuclear plant. What behavior in the nuclear plant are you going to influence by giving them this carbon allocation?”
    - Yarnold: “There is a golden moment right now…There is a confluence of public opinion, of political will, of a level of understanding. And so the question now is not whether there will be climate legislation, but whether there will be climate legislation that gets over a high enough bar to have actually the necessary environmental benefit."
    - Morris: “I would expect that between the House and the Senate sometime in the next year or so well come up with a plan that will work."


    Scientist, entrepreneur and visionary. You find 'em all the time when you follow New Energy.

    Chinese Scientist Finds Wealth in Solar
    Joe McDonald, April 22, 2007 (Newsday)

    Physicist Shi Zhengrong, billionaire CEO, Suntech Power Holdings Ltd.
    Shi w/SecTreas Hank Paulson
    Shi and other Chinese entrepreneurs are responding to Chinese political leadership and getting rich expanding Chinese clean technology.

    Shi became an expert in solar energy during the 1990s in Australia and came back to lead the way in China in 2001. Solar industry sales worldwide are expected to grow 20-40% annually for the foreseeable future. A 5-year goal is to lower the cost of 175 watt panels from its present $3.50 each to $2.50 eachm aking them competitive with traditional electric generating sources in California.

    Suntech is taking on industry leaders in Japan (Kyocera Corp.), Germany (Q Cells AG) and Britain (BP Solar). Its primary markets are Germany, Japan and Spain. The main Suntech facility is in Wuxi and there are three other locations in China.

    - Suntech’s primary customers in Germany, Japan and Spain are subsidized by their governments. But the national market is growing, due to a push by Chinese political leadership. Chinese demand, only 10% of Suntech’s sales, is rising rapidly because clean technology is desperately needed to meet the country’s boundless energy demands without worsening its severe pollution. Beijing’s goal is for Chinese utilities to generate 10% of power from solar, wind, hydroelectric and other renewable sources by 2010, with a larger percentage in out years.
    - Shi combines the virtues and strengths of the businessman and scientist. Suntech employs 3,500 Chinese at its four plants. Suntech solar cells are power-producing films sandwiched between glass sheets in groups of 72. Each generates 175 watts, less than 3 incandescent 60-watt bulbs but more than 3 CFLs of equivalent brightness.
    click to enlarge
    - Shi: "I never thought I would be a rich guy."
    - Andrew Wilkinson, CLSA Emerging Markets: "The technological prowess of China is growing a lot faster than people in the West reckon…"
    - Shi: "I'm a scientist…My hobby is solving technical problems…I really got into solar power by chance…I never thought this solar business could take off or become commercially viable…I thought I just needed to concentrate on my research and publish papers to do my job as a scientist."


    This post implies no endorsement; not even approval. Despite the Wall Street Journal's mention that a New Hampshire group endorses the plan, the only thing interesting about it is how much like the other candidates’ plans it is.

    W.House hopeful McCain details energy platform
    Chris Baltimore, April 23, 2007 (Reuters via Yahoo News)

    Republican Arizona Senator and candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination John McCain

    Senator McCain described in some detail his energy policy. He called it “…a declaration of independence from the fear bred by our reliance on oil sheiks…”

    The energy policy was described Monday, April 23.

    McCain spoke at Washington, D.C., think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    Picking easy targets, McCain attacked OPEC “oil sheiks” and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He advocated ethanol from corn and switchgrass but also called for dropping tariffs for imported ethanol. He called for a carbon cap-and-trade system to use market pressures against greenhouse gas emissions. He also proposed building more nuclear power plants because they don’t generate emissions, though he offered no solution for the storage of waste. He also advocated conservation measures such as “high-tech lightbulbs, space-age building materials for cars and lighter, more powerful batteries to obviate the need for crude oil to power cars.”
    click to enlarge
    - Democratic National Committee spokesman Luis Miranda: "John McCain can't have it both ways, hiring a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia as one of his campaign's top strategists while at the same time calling for energy independence…"
    - McCain: "The barriers to nuclear energy are political, not technological…"
    - McCain: "We need to dispel the image of conservation that entail shivering in cold rooms reading by candlelight and lower productivity…"